[box cover]

Garage Days

Director Alex Proyas is an interesting study in misspent potential. Renowned in the 1980s as a visual wunderkind for the memorable Crowded House music video "Don't Dream It's Over," he graduated to major ad campaigns for Nike before segueing into feature filmmaking with The Crow, a stylish, if thoroughly disposable, adaptation of the cult comic book by J. O'Barr. His sophomore feature, Dark City, was, again, a visually stunning achievement, particularly for its relative low budget, but the ideas, hashed out with co-writers Lem Dobbs and David Goyer, never took on a grandeur worthy of the film's dystopian universe, owing mostly to their feeling uncomfortably derivative of better sci-fi epics (namely Metropolis and Blade Runner). Still, Proyas remained a director to watch, and the premise for his third feature, Garage Days, at least seemed an encouraging return to familiar territory: the cutthroat confines of the rock-and-roll industry. Alas, it's another fabulous-looking strikeout. The knockabout tale of a Sydney, Australia garage band several large strides away from the verge of stardom, this is yet another Proyas production stunted by over familiarity — only this time the films it recalls are the less-than-legendary likes of That Thing You Do, Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains, and Satisfaction. Though clearly intended as an ensemble piece, the plot mostly revolves around lead singer Freddy's (Kick Gurry) attempts to hook the band up with Shad Kern (Marton Csokas), a slimy, big-time manager currently shepherding Australia's number-one rock act, Sprimp. Trouble is, the band's already falling apart: Freddy, who's sort of seeing bass player Tanya (Pia Miranda), is developing feelings for Kate (Maya Stange), the girlfriend of lead guitarist Joe (Brett Stiller), who's cheating on her with Angie (Yvette Duncan), a death-obsessed cross between Yoko Ono and Paula Yates (her predilection for auto-erotic asphyxiation dovetails a little too closely with a theoretical cause of death of INXS frontman Michael Hutchence). Freddy's ploy to snag Shad is further complicated by the overenthusiastic interference of the band's ex-manager, eventually demoted to "roadie," Bruno (Russell Dykstra), who wants badly for his mates to succeed. A film in this genre would normally have been better off with a look as ramshackle as the band's sound, but given the story's trite nature, which is hampered further by a succession of flat falling gags, the visual polish at least keeps Garage Days watchable. Save for Csokas and Dykstra, both of whom appear to be having a blast with their broadly written roles, the performances are all as bland as the script. The waifish Miranda has her moments as Tanya, whose character arc has her questing for a genuine orgasm, but too often she's forced into the background while the unconvincing romance between Freddy and Kate blossoms. While Proyas gets extra points for subverting the conventional big-show finale, one can't help but wonder where this inventiveness was for the prior 95 minutes. The only real sign of life in the movie comes in the amusing closing credits, where the cast takes an ebullient curtain call to Tom Jones's "Help Yourself." Fox presents Garage Days in a solid anamorphic transfer (1.85:1), which is complemented by vibrant Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras include a feature-length commentary from Proyas, a handful of deleted scenes, a brief pair of behind-the-scenes featurettes, and a mirth-free blooper reel. Keep-case.
—Clarence Beaks

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